THREE men from the Traveller community in the south-west of England have been jailed for blackmailing a Yorkshire farmer out of £196,000.
North Yorkshire Police confirmed that brothers Dennis McGinley, 36, and Bernard, 25, from Little Denice, Fivehead, Taunton, Somerset and Christy Stokes, 44, of Carousel Park, Micheldever, Hampshire received seven year, four months; four year, six months and three year, nine months prison sentences respective.
The men were sentenced at Teeside Crown Court on Thursday, February 18 after previously pleading guilty to the offence.
They were also ordered to pay back £196,000 to the victim within fourteen days.
At an earlier hearing, Bianca McGinley, 31, wife of Dennis, also from Little Denice, Fivehead, Taunton, Somerset, pleaded guilty to possession of criminal property and received a six month suspended prison sentence.
The 52-year-old victim – whose identity is protected by a court order – was subjected to blackmail and a series of menacing threats over a 17-day period last August.
During this time he had been forced to hand over £196,000, but it was only when he believed he would come to serious harm if he failed to pay a further £20,000 that he contacted police.
North Yorkshire Police's Major Crime Unit launched a nationwide investigation on the morning of September 4, 2015.
The blackmail conspiracy began on August 24, 2015 when the victim was approached by Dennis McGinley at the farm.
He mentioned his knowledge of a previous incident in 2003 when the victim was conned out of around £110,000 over the bogus sale of a mini-digger by two men from Ireland.
He claimed to know the men responsible and outlined a plan for the victim to get his money back, subject to a 30per cent fee.
The victim was told to go to Scotch Corner, near Richmond in north Yorkshire, where they would discuss the arrangement in more detail.
This began a chain of cash payments totalling nine deliveries, between which personal threats of violence were made over the phone and in person, including death threats towards the victim and his family.
The transactions took place in London, Birmingham, Darlington and Richmond.
The victim was directed to the meeting places by phone and was always required to pay in cash.
By September 3, 2015, he had handed over £196,000 in cash.
Having exhausted his own money and loans from family and friends, he reported the matter to police.
Dennis and Bianca McGinley have previous convictions for similar blackmail conspiracy and money laundering against farmers in north Yorkshire and Wales in March 2009.
Dennis McGinley was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment at Leeds Crown Court and ordered to pay a confiscation order of £787,480, while Bianca McGinley was imprisoned for three-and-a-half years and ordered to pay a confiscation order in the sum of £29,315.
Detective Inspector Mark Pearson, of the Major Crime Unit, said:
The blackmail conspiracy committed by the McGinleys and Christy Stokes was menacing and callous in the extreme.
DI Pearson added: "The defendants travelled all over the country to commit this crime and it may be that there are more victims from the farming community around the UK who have, so far, been too afraid to come forward to the police.”